LEARNING TO FLY

So you are interested in learning to fly your own R/C airplane... Without a doubt, joining a nearby club with experienced members to help you through the process is the best way to go. The initial investment in an a plane, radio and supporting field equipment can be a bit steep so it only makes sense to get some help and benefit from the experience of some friendly folks who have already gone through the process you are contemplating

It is possible to purchase a plane and teach yourself to fly. However, more often than not, people who have tried to take this path either end up frustrated and give up or seek the help of someone more experienced after having an expensive crash trying to go it alone. Joining an AMA sanctioned club also means that you are covered by the AMA insurance plan and have an R/C dedicated field to fly at often with experienced members around to help you out.

Just one of the many great aspects of this hobby is the people. This really comes in handy when you are learning because there are always plenty of club members willing offer assistance. Once you have joined our club you will be introduced to a few members who have the skills to help you learn in a safe manner. You will probably find there are many members who are good enough pilots to be an instructor. However, to be an instructor takes a certain type of individual with the patience and self assurance to be comfortable helping a new member learn to fly. For this reason, most clubs will have a select few members who do most of the instructing.

The following is a general learning pattern that an instructor will lead a student pilot through during the learning process. A buddy box should be used according to the instructor's discretion:

 

1. Oval pattern; learn to perform banked turns at each end of the flying field using ailerons and elevator while maintaining directional flight control coordination -
Flight Controls Used: Ailerons and Elevator.
Takeoffs/Landings: Performed by Instructor.
Altitude: "three-mistakes high."
Description: The student pilot is instructed in the proper way to initiate and control the plane through a turn while maintaining a constant altitude. A simple right or left-hand oval pattern is used at this point. Includes instruction on using the proper radio inputs while the model is flying toward the pilot. Once the student pilot is proficient performing turns in the oval pattern in both directions instruction will move on to step #2.

 

2. Figure Eight Pattern -
Flight Controls Used: Ailerons and Elevator.
Takeoffs/Landings: Performed by Instructor.
Altitude: "three-mistakes high."
Description: The student pilot becomes more adept at orienting the plane during this step. Both left and right-hand turns are combined to hone the student pilot's ability to apply the proper inputs while the plane is both flying towards and away from the pilot.

 

3.Oval and/or Figure Eight Pattern combined with Adjustment in Altitude while using Proper Throttle Control -
Flight Controls Used: Ailerons and Elevator.
Takeoffs/Landings: Performed by Instructor.
Altitude: "two to three-mistakes-high."
Description: This step combines the skills learned during steps 1 and 2 but adds the use of different throttle settings to maintain a constant speed while climbing and descending. Overall goal is to fly the chosen pattern, climbing and descending while using the throttle to maintain a somewhat constant speed. Changes in altitude should not be overly steep at this point. The intention is not to learn how to repeatedly put the plane in a dive and be able to pull out but instead allow the new pilot the opportunity to practice smooth, fully-controlled altitude changes. This step aims to develop the basic skills needed to perform a landing approach.


4. Slow flight, Handling the Stall -
Flight Controls Used: Throttle, Ailerons, Elevator. Rudder can be added for greater control once the student feels comfortable to do so.
Takeoffs/Landings: Take-off and Landing Performed by Instructor.
Altitude: Three-mistakes-high.
Description: The student should fly three-mistakes high and slow the plane using decreased throttle and holding up elevator to the point where the wing stalls and the plane begins to lose altitude. The student must then regain flight control through the use of increased throttle and control surface corrections. The student should also practice flying the plane as slow as possible without experiencing a stall. Attention should be given to any prevailing wind and the affect of the wind on the apparent speed at which the stall occurs. Going into the wind, the plane will appear (ground speed) to fly slower (because of a higher air speed) before the stall is reached. Flying with the wind, the plane will appear (by ground speed) to stall at a higher speed when in fact the air speed is actually almost the same. Note: in cross winds, the plane may even stall to the side if one wing stalls earlier than the other. This can put the plane into a spin so be prepared to use increased throttle and aileron/elevator input to bring the plane back into level flight. Lessons learned during this step can help the student learn how to recover from a potential crash.

 

5.The Take-off -
Flight Controls Used: Throttle, Ailerons, Elevator and Nose Wheel/Rudder.
Takeoffs/Landings: Take-off Performed by Student. Landing Performed by Instructor.
Altitude: Runway to three-mistakes-high.
Description: At this point the student should have mastered basic control of the aircraft. This step can be delayed until later at the instructor's discretion. The instructor should accompany the student during the first take-offs to provide guidance and, if available, help via the buddy box in the event of problems encountered by the student.

 

6.Low-level Flight -
Flight Controls Used: Throttle, Ailerons and Elevator.
Takeoffs/Landings: Take-off Performed by Student or Instructor. Landing Performed by Instructor.
Altitude: Three-mistakes-high to one-mistake high.
Description: During this step the student begins flying the pattern at an increasingly lower and lower altitude. The room for mistakes diminishes as the plane gets closer to the ground so the student should have full command of the plane through the use of ailerons and elevator at this point.

 

7.Touch and Go -
Flight Controls Used: Throttle, Ailerons and Elevator. Rudder optional.
Takeoffs/Landings: Take-off Performed by Student. Landing Performed by Instructor. See Description.
Altitude: Runway to two-mistakes-high.
Description: A Touch and Go is simply a landing followed by an immediate take-off. The advantage of a touch and go is it allows the student to repeatedly practice landing approaches without the worry of having to perform a full landing. Enough speed is maintained to easily perform an immediate take-off without the fear of stalling. A tough and go will often lead to the students first unassisted landing.

 

8.The Landing -
Flight Controls Used: Throttle, Ailerons and Elevator. Once on ground rudder is used in place of ailerons.
Takeoffs/Landings: Take-off and Landing Performed by Student.
Altitude: One-mistake high to the runway.
Description: The landing includes the setup for the final approach, the final approach itself and finally putting the plane down on its wheels on the runway and bringing the plane to a complete stop or slow taxi speed while steering on the ground back to the pits.

 

9.The Solo -
Flight Controls Used: Throttle, Ailerons and Elevator. Rudder optional.
Takeoffs/Landings: Performed by Student.
Altitude: Runway to three-mistakes-high.
Description: The solo is basically the first flight performed solely by the student from take-off to landing in the presence of the instructor and safety officer. For a solo flight to be considered a successful one the student should have performed every part of the flight without assistance from the instructor and without incident of any kind. For instance, if the student takes off, flies the pattern and then successfully lands only to allow the plane to run off the end of the runway due to too much speed or setting the plane down too far down the runway, then the flight does not count as a successful solo flight. One incident, no matter how big or small, will disqualify the entire flight. The goal is for the student to demonstrate that they can fly a perfect flight without assistance. Once the student has soloed, the individual is considered a novice pilot and can fly without the presence of an instructor.